Roberta Smith, The New York Times, Feb 9, 1996

Fine Art and Outsiders: Attacking the Barriers

There’s something to be said for an exhibition that bites off more than it can possibly chew, even when it grabs from as many different plates as “A Labor of Love,” the latest exegesis in museological chaos from the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Organized by Marcia Tucker, the founding director of the museum, this exhibition has the imaginative yet injudicious sprawl that Ms. Tucker has honed into something of a curatorial style.

Ms. Tucker’s entirely admirable aim in “A Labor of Love” is to deliver further blows to the barriers that have traditionally divided fine art from the work of so-called outsiders — be they self-taught folk artists, prison inmates or mental patients — and especially from the crafts. These barriers have been crumbling for most of this century, but their deterioration has gained pace over the last three decades with the elevation to important-artist status of such figures as the turn-of-the-century American ceramist George Ohr and outsiders like Adolf Wolfli, Martin Ramirez and Henry Darger.

Many things catch the eye here: the minuscule figures that Tom Emerson fashions from bits of debris (not unlike Donald Lipski’s early work); the more glamorously attired beaded figures, also small, by Larry Krone, and a radically scaled-down man’s suit by Charles LeDray, its violently shredded lower regions creating a frightening aura.

New Museum of Contemporary Art,
583 Broadway
Through April 14.

February 9, 1996
Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company

Copyright 1996 by Roberta Smith